New USPS rates are in effect

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An average 7.6 percent postal rate increase takes effect today.

More specifically, on average, rates for First-Class letters and cards increase by 6.9 percent; Standard advertising mail climbs 9.5 percent; Parcel Post, 16.6 percent; Priority Mail, 13.5 percent; and Express Mail, 12.5 percent. Periodical rates will go up on July 15.

The U.S. Postal Service proposed new rates May 3, 2006, and the Postal Regulatory Commission issued its recommendation Feb. 26. The Governors of the USPS on March 19 approved the PRC's proposal but requested reconsideration of the PRC's rate recommendations for the Priority Mail Flat-Rate Box, the Non-Machinable Surcharge for First-Class Mail letters and Standard Mail flats.

The Governors earlier this month accepted the decision of the PRC to modify two of its earlier rate case recommendations, that is, to lower the price of the Priority Mail Flat-Rate Box to $8.95 and to extend the nonmachinable surcharge - which encourages mailing efficiencies - to all single piece and presorted First-Class Mail letters, regardless of weight.

Still pending is the Governors' request that the PRC reconsider its decision about Standard Mail flats.

The Governors were concerned that price increases recommended by the PRC for Standard Mail flats may impose an unnecessary degree of "rate shock" on the catalog industry and small businesses particularly. The recommended increase for some catalog mailers is as high as 40 percent, more than double what the USPS had proposed.

The PRC set May 4 as the new deadline for submitting comments on its reconsideration of Standard flats rates. May 11 was the filing date for reply comments.

The new pricing system is based on the shape of mail, not just the weight, reflecting the fact that the costs for handling letters, large envelopes and packages differs. Customers can reduce their mailing costs simply by choosing different packaging.

For example, if the contents of a First-Class Mail large envelope are folded and placed in a letter-sized envelope, customers can reduce postage by as much as 39 cents per piece. If the contents of a First-Class Mail package are laid out to fit into a large envelope, customers can save 33 cents per piece.

With the new emphasis on shape in its pricing, the USPS has also reduced the additional ounce rate as of today. As mail pieces become heavier, the new additional ounce price declines. For letters over one ounce, the new prices are actually lower than the current prices

In addition to the new domestic rates, changes will take effect today for customers sending international mail. USPS has simplified its eight main international products into four: Global Express Guaranteed, Express Mail International, Priority Mail International and First-Class Mail International. New packaging will allow mailers to use the same Priority Mail and Express Mail packaging for shipping both within the United States and to other countries.

For details of the International Mail changes, go to www.usps.com/ratecase and select "New International Rates, Fees and Country Listing."

The USPS also has a new web site URL - usps.com/pricing - to provide an overview of the pricing changes that go into effect today.

To help mailers with the change, the PRC Chairman Dan G. Blair will be online on PRC's Web site today at 11 a.m. EST to explain new stamp, bulk mail and package mailing prices and pricing methods, how the commission arrived at them and how new rules passed by Congress will affect them in the future.

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